Message from the Dean
I was inaugurated as the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Letters right in the middle of the COVID-19 disaster. Both students and educators have had to experience unprecedented circumstances, such as large-scale entry restrictions to the GSAL building and facilities, or web meetings, teleworking, and online classes. Various problems emerged, but looking back, I would say that with every effort made to prevent and control infection, the Graduate School of Arts and Letters has maintained its functions as an institution of higher education, starting with the most basic one—teaching. This outcome became possible thanks to the hard work of the faculty members and the students’ willingness to endure.
Students have suffered the most in these circumstances. I am reminded of a certain phrase from The Plague by Albert Camus (Shinchō Bunko, trans. by Miyazaki Mineo), which has become widely read in recent months. The phrase—“exile in one's own home”—perfectly describes the students’ mental state during these times. But restrictions have finally been eased in universities. The process might take some time, but you can now come back from exile. However, it is impossible to go straight back to how things were before the pandemic. We need to keep in mind the second and the third coronavirus waves, as well as our future "coexistence" with the virus. Taking appropriate measures is vital. So far, we have experienced a chain of emergencies—now we have to get used to daily life suffused with the coronavirus threat.
The gravest issue thus far has been the exceptional limitations on direct interpersonal interactions that pose a fundamental problem in human social life. We must find ways to sustain and develop relationships between students, their peers, and educators; between the university and society; between our university and educational institutions overseas and so on. Obviously, it is necessary to maintain online communication and consensus-building as indispensable means to achieve these goals. We must also re-examine various systems that once seemed self-evident. Engaging in reforms better described as disaster capitalism is out of the question, but multiple improvements are required. I would also like the Graduate School of Arts and Letters to increase its productive exchange with society. I find it wonderfully uplifting that already numerous members of our faculty have started to contemplate the role of humanities and social sciences in the post-pandemic world and come up with new research projects.
In short, we are facing a range of challenging problems. I firmly believe, however, that multifaceted thinking and flexible imagination, as well as unyielding will—qualities that have always remained the stamp of the Graduate School of Arts and Letters—will help us overcome this crisis. I hope that all of you will support these efforts. Thank you.
Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University